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Press Release
For Release: October 16, 2000 Contact: Louise Kennelly
703-351-5666
    Randall Mehrberg
312-923-2750
    Heidi Hennink
616-698-4514

FORTUNE 500 CORPORATIONS FILE BRIEF IN
SUPPORT OF DIVERSITY IN HIGHER
EDUCATION

Detroit, MI-- Twenty of America's largest and best-known corporations today filed a legal brief strongly supporting the University of Michigan in a lawsuit challenging its admissions policies. The brief argues that diversity in higher education plays a critical role in preparing students to be leaders in business and other pursuits that affect the public interest.

[See amicus brief in support of the University of Michigan's defense of its admissions policies.]

The corporations filing include Steelcase, Inc, located in Grand Rapids, MI; 3M located in St. Paul, MN; Abbott Laboratories located in Abbott Park, IL; Bank One located in Chicago, IL; E. I. DuPont De Nemours & Co located in Wilmington, DE; Dow Chemical located in Midland, MI; Eastman Kodak Co. located in Rochester, NY; Eli Lilly located in Indianapolis, IN; General Mills located in Minneapolis, MN; Intel Corp. located in Santa Clara, CA; Johnson and Johnson located in New Brunswick, NJ; Kellogg Company located in Battle Creek, MI; KPMG International located in New York, NY; Lucent Technologies located in Murray Hill, NJ; Microsoft Corporation located in Redmond, WA; PPG Industries, Inc., located in Pittsburgh, PA; Procter and Gamble located in Cincinnati, OH; and Sara Lee Corporation located in Chicago, IL; Texaco, located in White Plains, NY; and TRW, Inc., located in Cleveland, OH.

According to the brief, the corporations' interest in the case is substantial. All the companies recruit at the University of Michigan or similar leading institutions of higher education and have a business presence and strong connection to its customers in Michigan. The brief, filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, states that racial and ethnic diversity in institutions of higher education is vital to the corporations' efforts to hire and maintain an effective workforce.

The benefits of being educated with students from a wide range of backgrounds include a highly skilled, diverse workforce prepared for the opportunities presented by a global economy, say the friends of the court. From their experience, they know it is in the best interests of America's global competitiveness to support the efforts of building diversity in higher education. Numerous entities have filed "Friend of the Court" briefs in support of the University including General Motors Corporation, the U.S. Department of Justice, the Michigan Attorney General, the State of Ohio, and the American Council on Education.

"Steelcase's success as a global company is dependent on our ability to hire people who have experience in and are knowledgeable about working in a diverse environment with diverse ideas and with people from all walks of life. Without a strong commitment to diversity from the world's leading academic institutions, it will become more and more difficult for multi-national corporations to compete at the global level," said James Hackett, CEO of Steelcase.

Participants in the brief report that managers and employees who graduated from institutions with diverse student bodies are better prepared to understand, learn from and collaborate with others from a variety of racial, ethnic and cultural backgrounds; demonstrate creative problem solving by integrating differing perspectives; exhibit the skills required for good teamwork; and demonstrate more effective responsiveness to the needs of all types of consumers. In their view, educating students from a wide variety of backgrounds captures America's best talents and fosters excellence.

The brief argues that the pursuit of diversity in higher education comports with the Constitution and civil rights statutes, as interpreted by the Supreme Court in the 1978 Bakke decision.

The lawsuits, filed in 1997 on behalf of three white applicants, claim the university unconstitutionally uses race as a factor in admissions to the undergraduate College of Literature, Science and the Arts and to the University's Law School. The law school case is scheduled to go to trial in January, 2001. No trial date is set for the undergraduate case but a hearing on critical motions will be held on November 21, 2000. Copies of the brief and statements of interest by the corporations are available.



Questions? Comments? Please send e-mail to diversitymatters@umich.edu.
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